The World Bank Research Observer, Vol. 16 No. 2


Ecology, History, and Development: A Perspective from Rural Southeast Asia

Although the plantation system had an economic advantage in the vent-for- surplus stage, plantations could not have been established if governments had not granted concessions to hold large tracts of virgin land for the exclusive use of plantations. Typically colonial governments granted concessions to Western planters. For example, the Dutch colonial government had traditionally tried to prevent alienation of farmland from indigenous peasants by regulating against land purchase by foreigners, including the ethnic Chinese. However, in the late 19th century, demand for tropical cash crops rose sharply. The colonial government passed the Agricultural Land Law of 1870, which granted Dutch planters long-term contracts to lease wild land. The land was de jure owned by the government (although it was de facto used by native tribes). Although this new institutional arrangement should have accelerated the development of “empty land” for cash crop production, it served as an instrument to preempt land for the elite, closing smallholders’ access to land. Similar public land-leasing arrangements were also practiced under the American colonial administration with frontier land in the Philippines, especially in Mindanao, which became the basis of large plantations under the management of multinational corporations (Hayami and others 1990).

Source InstitutionWorld Bank
Source URL
Page Count30
Place of PublicationPasig City
Original Publication DateSeptember 1, 2001